The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/06/12 at 05:22 PM ET
Sportsnet’s Mark Spector penned an intriguing column regarding the Red Wings’ future as Nicklas Lidstrom approaches the end of his career, talking about the team’s desire to remain elite even when Lidstrom eventually hangs ‘em up with Wings GM Ken Holland:
“I’m big on defencemen, and I think Nick has been the best at his position,” begins general manager Ken Holland. “We’ve had the most valuable player, in my opinion, in the last two decades,”
Under Holland, the best GM in the business, the Red Wings can survive anything. He’ll likely lose legendary low-post artist Tomas Holmstrom to retirement this summer, and power forward Todd Bertuzzi doesn’t have many years left. But Holland will have over $17 million in expiring contracts after this season, to go along with the $5 million in cap space he currently has.
“We’ve got some kids coming …” Holland said. “We’re like everyone else. You’ve got to find players through the draft, or find veterans (as free agents). I’m big on the Original 6. Hopefully the history and the tradition of the Detroit Red Wings is kind of intriguing to some players down the road. Like it was to Dominik Hasek, like it was with Marian Hossa. That can turn the wheel for you.”
Undoubtedly, with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, plus this management team and its winning culture in place, the Red Wings remain a Top 3 destination for UFAs. But here’s where we come back to Lidstrom. He has been a UFA magnet, as players leap at the chance to play with a Hall of Famer like Lidstrom. That powerful drawing card could disappear at any time, not to mention the major advantage of having the best player on the ice every time the Red Wings have lined up to play a hockey game over the past 20 years.
“We haven’t missed the playoffs in the 20 years that Nick has been a Red Wing. The past 11 years we’ve had 100 points or more. He’s won seven Norris Trophies and was (a finalist) another three or four times,” Holland said of Lidstrom, who was plus-2 in a 5-4 loss at Edmonton Saturday. “I’m a former goaltender, played pro for nine years. For me, premier, elite, defencemen are the most important players in the game. They defend, they attack, they transition to offence, they play against the other team’s best offensive players, they play on the penalty kill …It’s going to be a very sad day in Red Wings land whenever Nick decides he isn’t going to play anymore.”
Despite the fact that most of the Wings’ core players are in their early 30’s, Spector notes that Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill, and the team’s pro (see: Kirk Maltby, Mark Howe) and amateur scouting staffs (see: Hakan Andersson, Joe McDonnell) have ensured that the Wings still have a healthy number of prospects in the pipeline, and while Lidstrom’s eventual retirement will yield a sea change in terms of the Wings’ personnel, it won’t change the team’s master plan:
“We’ve tried to be patient,” Holland said. “In 2006, when we lost to Edmonton in the first round of the playoffs, we had 124 points and Edmonton went to the finals. I sat with Jim Nill in his office afterwards, and there were questions: Did we have too many Europeans? Were we too small?”
At that moment, [Pavel] Datysuk had played 52 playoff games and delivered only nine goals. There was legitimate conversation around the NHL about whether this guy had game or not. Today, that conversation would get you laughed out of the bar. Or perhaps beat up, at The Detroiter in Greektown.
“At the end of the day,” said Holland, “Jim Nill, Mike Babcock and I believed we were on the right path, and to continue down it.”
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.